The ride down there from my office in east Hollywood was not much part of the blessing, though: squeezing through LA rush hour traffic, the fetid congeal of immaturity, anger, impatience, and fumes that constitutes the planet of the auto-addled here. West Hollywood, our gay ghetto, provided a brief respite, a mile-and-a-half island of civility, then it was back into the corporate compounds by Beverly Hills and Century City, and more pretentious shitheads in oversized tin cans....
Finally I arrived at the pipe-sculpture arch that demarcates the Santa Monica city line, and damn if I didn't see the twinkle of bicycle taillights a few blocks ahead! Still pumped up from the struggle, I blew past a group of fixies, cruisers, and commuters heading to CM themselves; managed to slow myself down by the time I got to the Palisades over the beach.
Mass meets on the bluff above the pier, and the amusement park over the water was in full swing, with the ferris wheel and roller coaster all lighted up, the crowds ambling slowly, the waves breaking in ghostly froth among the pilings. A good crowd was there, considering that close to gale-force winds had been blowing for two days; I checked out bikes, met friends, made a new friend or two. Then came the call to saddle up.
Someone had suggested a route that included the Marina and the Ballona Wetlands, we voted on it pretty much unanimously, and off we went.
We noodled about on city streets as usual, especially the restaurant districts, where folks on the sidewalk and even in their cars seemed happy to see us: smiling, waving, giving the thumbs-up or the friendly toot-toot, and found our way to the big traffic circle by Venice Beach to ride round and round it till the stragglers caught up--a giddy velcipedal merry-go-round that had all shouting with glee.
Soon after the ride veered from the usual route and rolled onto the shuttered and deserted Boardwalk; we rolled silently between ghostly storefronts and the parking lots, tennis courts, and outdoor gyms that separated us from sand and ocean, then into the quiet west end of the Marina, where we massed up at a little strip park overlooking the marina channel.
To the east were the light of the city; directly across were the hills that hid the airport; a party boat, festooned with tiny lamps, drifted slowly before us; and the moon rose full above the waters. A little boy who had been pedaling along with his parents offered a tray of orange slices; a German student sold used book from his bike basket; a few lit up their aromatic cigarettes; an old couple cuddled up in a pedicab ridden by my friend Reno Tondelli. It was a moment that defined a certain kind of happiness....
We saddled up again and wound through many more narrow crannies of the marina, around channels, by hidden beaches, on footpaths and walkways, through parking lots, by quiet back doors.
Eventually we crossed over Ballona Creek itself to the wetlands, dark and deserted, fragrant, silent, to tiny Playa del Rey and thence to the bicycle bridge that headed back over the creek...the same bridge where I end up almost every Sunday.
Only bicycle headlamps for light, and that big moon beaming in the east. The stars were out; distant lamps reflected in the creek; far off in the water were the lights of ships. Our shadows huddled round the bike lamps.... The night was fragrant and almost warm.
On the way home, I battled forty mile per hour headwinds much of the way, which gave me a good excuse to stop at an Indian restaurant I hadn't tried yet though I'd passed it dozens and dozens of times. Got home around ten. Happy. Happy.